A Science Communication Intervention: Purpose and Paragraph Structure

I am currently intervening in an undergraduate-level science course. Along with the basic science, students will learn how to communicate their ideas and perspectives effectively. Here’s what we are discussing this week: Purpose and Paragraph Structure.



Lesson 1: Purpose

When we write, we want our readers to read, grasp, and remember our purpose. How can we make that happen?

  1. Make your written text visually appealing.
    • At first, you see only text. Would you rather read a huge block of continuous text? Or text that has been broken up into short paragraphs with plenty of dynamic white space on the paper?
  1. Choose a single main purpose.
    • You should be able to condense that purpose into a single sentence.
    • My purpose for formatting this page the way I have is to demonstrate how to make text visually appealing and how write in a narrative style.
  1. Form a narrative.
    • Take advantage of humanity’s tendency to remember stories.
    • I bet you can recite the storyline of the last book you read. But, how much can you remember from the last non-narrative lecture you sat through?

Lesson 2: Paragraph Structure

You begin reading text, and you finish the first paragraph, and you keep going on to the second, and after the second you skim down to see how much further you need to go, and your mind wonders… what were you even reading?

When we write, we must string together many thoughts, and we can do this with conjunctions like the word and. But, when we only use words like and, we bore our readers. There is no hook or suspense to keep them interested. So, we should introduce complications by using words like but, however, and although, and then resolve those complications with words like therefore, consequently, and thus.

Effective narratives are made by intertwining ABT frameworks. Small ABT frameworks can be made into single paragraphs and then those paragraphs can be strung together into a larger ABT narrative. But, be careful. If you introduce too many complications without balancing with set up or concluding with solutions, your piece may become over-narrative and ineffective. To become effective narrators, you’ll have to practice.


Assignment

Practice good paragraph structure to support your purpose when you complete your homework this week. Things to do when asked to write long responses:

  • Identify the purpose of your exposition. What is the one thing you want your reader to remember?
  • Each paragraph should scaffold that main purpose.
    • First paragraph – provide context to set the scene.
    • Second paragraph – introduce a problem or conundrum to hook your reader.
    • Third paragraph – offer a solution or consequence to wrap it all up.
  • Make sure that each sentence and each paragraph supports your purpose in some way. If you don’t need it, get rid of it.

Date

Topic

Week 1 9/26 Overview and Motivation
Week 2 10/3 Sentence Structure
Week 3 10/10 Purpose and Paragraph Structure
Week 4 10/17 Word Choice
Week 5 10/24 Jargon
Week 6 10/31 Demonstration
Week 7 11/7 Audience and Framing
Week 8 11/14 Review

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